Anti-Government Protesters Free Police Taken Hostage in Ecuador

Matthew Bristow

(Bloomberg) -- Anti-government protesters in Ecuador freed ten police officers who’d been seized earlier Thursday, and also released more than two dozen journalists.

The police were grabbed off the streets around 9 a.m., and were paraded before a hostile crowd in a theater in downtown Quito. Interior Minister Maria Paula Romo said in an evening TV address that they had been released.

The demonstrators were mainly from rural Andean and Amazonian indigenous communities, who came to the capital to resist an International Monetary Fund-backed austerity drive by President Lenin Moreno. Thirty-one journalists who entered the theater to cover the capture of the police were themselves detained for several hours.

Violent clashes between protesters and the security forces began last week after Moreno’s government ended subsidies on fuel. Indigenous organizations initially demanded a restoration of fuel subsidies, then that Moreno leave office and, on Thursday, their umbrella group issued a statement saying the protests won’t stop until the IMF leaves Ecuador.

Moreno fled to the coastal city of Guayaquil and has vowed to not to give in to demands to roll back the gasoline price rises. Instead, he is calling for dialogue to end the crisis.

(An earlier version of this story corrected the number of police released, in the first line.)

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